Football is coming!
In around a month the NFL season starts and we have already had our first football game of the 2018 pre-season as the NFL celebrates the Hall of Fame weekend.
Training camps are open and we have so many questions and games ahead of us.
There is a wave of new first round quarterbacks joining the league, but more than that we have two hundred and fifty-six drafted rookies and the undrafted free agents all battling for a place in the league. We have veterans trying to hold on for one more year, payers coming back from injuries, players in the best shape of their lives.
Football is coming.
I watch a fair bit of pre-season. There’s a tempo to it as you follow teams and see them both try to get ready for the season and set their rosters.
On Friday I watched my first new game of the 2018 season, which included one of the teams I’ll be following this pre-season.
I will naturally be watching all the Bengals pre-season games, and this year’s Hard Knocks team is the Cleveland Browns. They should be a fascinating watch given Hue Jackson’s struggles over the last two years and the new GM John Dorsey that took charge this offseason.
However, never mind an AFC bias, there’s an AFC North bias right there so my third team to follow this pre-season has to be an NFC franchise. I talked it over with Dan and the Rams/Vikings were both suggested before I settled on the Chicago Bears.
After several years of poor records and a developing defence paired with a struggling offence the Bears made a big switch this offseason. Taking note of the LA Rams 2017 transformation the Bears went out and hired forty-year-old Matt Nagy from Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs’ staff to be their new head coach and set him the task of overhauling their offence. This offseason they set about surrounding second year quarterback Mitch Trubisky with enough options on offence that he can demonstrate whether he is the franchise quarterback they traded up for or not.
This should be a fascinating season for the Bears with Nagy looking to bring the RPO (run-pass option) plays to Chicago as he looks to modernise an offence that has struggled for years. We don’t know yet if he will succeed but it will be a fun watch. Less fun is the hold out of first round draft pick Roquan Smith, the next linebacker that has to try to live up to the history of the Bears at that position. What started as a dispute over the protection of guaranteed money against suspension coming from the NFL’s new helmet policy (which no one is sure how it will be enforced) seems to be more complex and the only thing we know for sure is that Smith is not in training camp and his potential impact in his first season is diminishing by the day. The last big hold out like this that I remember was Joey Bosa, and he proved me very wrong as hit the ground running with the Chargers in his first season as defensive end. Still, there are a lot more nuances for a linebacker to learn and the quicker he gets to camp the quicker he can start learning what it is to be an NFL linebacker.
As for the game, it was a solid affair with the player that really jumped out being the Baltimore Ravens’ rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. There has been a lot of news coming out of the Ravens’ camp about how good Jo Flacco has looked but that Jackson was already being worked into packages with the first team game. The Ravens may have started off with Robert Griffin under quarterback who looked good after a number of difficult seasons since his electrifying rookie season in 2012. However, it was quickly apparent when Jackson took the field why the Ravens traded back into the first round to pick him. He may well have to work on his accuracy but Jackson’s threw the ball with plenty of zip and he looked fluid and shifty when forced to run. The interception he threw was not great but he threw for a touchdown and I am very curious how he’ll be used this season and how the Ravens will develop him.
Closer to home, as you have may already have read we are not doing a weekly podcast this year for all the reasons that Dan laid out here. However, apart from the usual picks competition and coaching tape analysis, I’ll also be writing a weekly newsletter in season with a summary of what happened over the weekend, what we’ve up to on the blog, and looking forward to the coming week. Sign up at https://tinyletter.com/thewrongfootball
Football is coming!